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Armchair art travel

Photo: The spectacular Charles Jencks landform at Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh.

Here in Melbourne, Australia, restrictions are easing after lockdown #4 and our international borders will be closed until next year.  That doesn’t need explanation.  Traveler friends around the world have been staying at home since early 2020.  Those of us who are art-lovers have been spoilt by galleries and museums throughout these difficult times: virtual tours, conversations, education, so much knowledge shared. One could sit in front of the computer all day, but I’m not good at sitting still for long.

In the past, I’ve written about cities I’ve visited, the textures of landscapes, history, cultures and, particularly the art.  As I (we) can’t travel, I’m writing this blog about a couple of my much-loved cities.  Hopefully, you’ll make yourself comfortable, pour a nice wine, and vicariously travel with me. Enjoy!

Starting with EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND with it’s never-changing beautiful face, rich in everything art, famous for its annual performance, Fringe and literary festivals. I stay with dear friends whose hospitality and learned appreciation for their home is contagious.  Each day starts with one of my favourite sprightly walks, up Arthurs’s Seat, overlooking the city of Edinburgh and beyond.

At the other end of the day, we regularly drink at The Sheep Heid Inn, Duddingston. Dating back to the 14th Century, The Sheep Heid is Scotland’s oldest pub, boasting famous patrons from times gone by including Bonnie Prince Charlie, writer Robert Louis Stevenson and poet Robert Burns.
            
Photos: The walk starts around Dunsapie Loch; towards the peak of Arthur’s Seat; along the pathway: the small track down to Duddingston Village; The Sheep Heid.  

On past visits, I’ve become aware of Scotland’s vast history of female artists, as well as seeing wonderful contemporary works by women.  My last trip, I was introduced to painter Victoria Crowe (London born 1945,) whose breadth of creativity includes interiors, landscapes, portraits and still life. As her subject changes, so does her palette, the impact of light, as her painting techniques become familiar.

Born in London (1945), Victoria Crowe made Edinburgh’s Pentland Hills her home from the late 1960’s. The seasons and cold climate play a role in many of her works.  Her art was further impacted by travels to Italy, particularly the early Renaissance works. What is enticing about Crowe’s work is the awareness of its passages, seemingly a reflection of those movements within in her life, in the aptly titled exhibition, “Victoria Crowe, 50 years of Painting”.
            
Photos: Four from Victoria Crowe’s exhibition including Portrait of pioneering Psychoanalyst, Dr Winifred Rushforth and Near Rialto, Venice; stroll the city’s Dundas Street for a variety of contemporary glass and art.

Art ‘of all sorts’ abounds in Edinburgh:
            
Photos: Pleasance is one of many hubs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Nathan Coley’s “Everything is going to be alright” across the facade of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; sculptural stones in the old dressing rooms at Dovecot Tapestry Studio and Galleries (formerly Victorian Baths); weavers work on the floor at Dovecot: The Queen’s Gallery.

SEVILLE in sunny SPAIN.
There’s everything to love about Spain, I’ve been a few times and can’t name a favourite place or city.  I could start with the food! Like everything Spanish, it explodes with colour and textures.  The people too are vibrant, as are the street sights, the music, architecture, history and climate, hence sunny Spain.  On my last trip, we visited friends in Seville – capital of the Andalusia region – my first ‘taste’ of its delights.

               
Photos: mouth-watering jamon, carved from the bone;  Al fresco dining – in the gardens alongside Plaza de España , “Cheers” Richard.  Victoria, spoilt for choice at Chiva restaurant (the best hospitality).  Salads and sausages beside the Canal De Alfonso XIII; “Cheers” Emilie. 

Strolling Seville, there’s much to absorb.  As an Australian, the tiling around Spain is always enticing, something we don’t see at home. Their colours of yellow and blue, also represented in the yellow and white architecture, are pretty against the skies. Look up, down, over there!  Let the photos do the walking.

            
Photos: Postcards from Seville; Plaza de España, loads of loveliness.

            
Photos: Look up as you wander; fishing under the Puente de Isabel II; view of the city from one of the undulating walkways of Metropol Parasol (known as “the Mushrooms”, Las Setas), built 2011. 

Formerly a Convent built 1594, Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla (Museum of Fine Arts) has an extensive collection housed in five rooms: 15th century Sevillian painting and sculpture; Renaissance; Mannerism; Naturalism: Murillo and Sevillian Baroque. There’s much to see as your eyes roam the decorative arches, walls, ceilings, before taking in the breadth of art history and works.  I’ll have to return to absorb and learn more. Here’s a small sampling.
            
Photos: Sculpture by Italian artist of the Florentine school, Pietro Torrigiano. He was important in introducing Renaissance art to England, but his ‘violent temper’ impacted his success. He died in Seville in 1528; Retrato de señora y caballero orantes (Portrait of a praying lady and gentleman) by Francisco Pacheco, a Spanish painter and teacher whose textbook “Art of Painting” was an important study source of 17thC practice in Spain; along the cloisters in the (former) Convent; furniture and wall sculptures; Nicoloso Francisco was an Italian painter and sculptor, based in Seville, his Virgen con el Niño (Virgin and child).

On my last trip to Europe, I visited MONTPELLIER in SOUTHERN FRANCE, staying with Melbourne friends in their apartment. It felt immediately like a ‘happy home’, not just because of their generous hospitality, but also the compact size of this old University town. From Montpellier’s heart, Place de la Comedie Square, with its theatres, old buildings and people-watching, it’s easy to wander the charming narrow streets, finding ‘little places of interest’. The tram system is efficient, but as a walker, I was happy to stroll around Montpellier’s medieval history for hours. We dined al fresco for lunch and dinner and, on one evening were treated to an outdoor music recital.

The University’s Faculty of Medicine, is a fascination, not just visually, but historically. Originally St. Bendict’s Monastery founded in 1364, it became the Faculty of Medicine in 1795.  The Faculty contains a library of 900 manuscripts, 300 incunabula and 10,000 volumes printed before the 18th century.  I can’t imagine the awe and excitement of today’s medical students, walking through those looming wooden doors, knowing it’s so old that Nostradamus studied there. (I’ve read this great astrologer and prophesier had a few ‘run ins’ with the learned faculty members and was asked to leave, not achieving his Doctorate.)

            
Photos: The Montpellier Aqueduct – Les Arceaux ; Looking up to the apse of St Peter’s Basilica (first stone laid in 1364, consecrated in 1373);  entrance hall to Faculty of Medicine; one of the many lists of Bienfaiteurs (Benefactors) from as early as 1180 Guilhem VIII; the Law Courts Building.

Strolling Montpelier, enjoying the street sights and lifestyle.
            
Photos: Eye-pleasing trompe l’oeil; these bicycles were attached to walls around various parts of the city; leisurely summer reading.
                
Photos: “Look up!”;  Oh yes, we enjoyed the outdoor dining in summer’s evening light.

We roamed a couple of art galleries, but Montpellier’s Musée Fabre is it’s ‘gem’ – considered one of the finest art museums in Europe, with a collection ranging from Renaissance through to contemporary and present day works.
           
Photos: Stairway up to one of elegant gallery spaces in Musée Fabre;  traditional & contemporary art and sculpture; detail from Montpellier artist Frédéric Bazille’s (1868) Vue de Village; portrait of  Fernande Olivier by Dutch painter Kees van Dongen (Fauvism, 1905).  Fernande, herself a French artist and model, seems to have been much loved and admired. Pablo Picasso painted more than 60 portraits of her. Twenty years after their relationship she published a book about their time together. Picasso hired lawyers to suppress publication. Ultimately only six articles were published, but apparently Fernande lived well off the financial rewards. 

Edinburgh, Seville, Montpellier. Three abundantly colourful and beguiling cities.  It’s challenging right now, not being able to travel, to stroll familiar main streets, explore winding village paths, gape in galleries, sip coffee while people-watching. Most importantly, missing the excitement of booking flights, those months of forward planning to see friends ……. and then, there you are again. Together, “as if it was yesterday”, dining under the night skies, laughing, seated at a favourite restaurant, tasting the deliciousness of foods and local wines. ….. catching-up.

So near but so far.  We’ll be back!Photo:  Montpellier – look closely. This romantic building is, in fact,
an apartment block covered in trompe l’oeil art. 

 

© 2021 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo

 

 

 

 

top of the class!

Photo: Sr.M.Ursula with English & History teacher, Miss Costigan, 1960s

Ask a friend about their favourite schoolteacher and everyone has a story.  Mine was Sr. M Ursula, my art teacher at Santa Maria College. Way back then, I had no idea how enduring her instructional and observational lessons would be.  Sr. Ursula would take us on tram rides into Melbourne city, telling us to ‘look up’ at the local, historic architecture above shops and offices. That one expression, look up, was to become my refrain throughout future journeys, exploring what she taught my eyes to see.   One tram trip was to the National Gallery of Victoria, to see the American Abstract Expressionists.  What an eye-opener!  I had no idea that lines and shapes with bold colours could have such impact.

I was grateful too for my Catholic education which gave me an understanding of how biblical and art history are intrinsically enmeshed; the power and wealth of Catholicism, the Medici family’s might throughout The Renaissance. In the decades to follow, Sr. Ursula’s tuition travelled with me:  as I stood in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, remembering lessons in early perspective – Paolo Uccello’s The Battle of San Romano; seeing in real life Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus;  Michaelangelo’s David and the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel ceiling; of course, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre; in Barcelona and London, those confident lines of Picasso and Matisse; the waterlilies and haystacks of French Impressionists Monet and VanGogh; painting en plein air at the foot of Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire.  So many occasions exploring old and new art. But, the most memorable moments were the overwhelming emotions on the first sighting of Vatican City, and arriving in Venice. As the vaporetto moved slowly along The Grand Canal, my nose was pressed to the glass, mouth almost gaping at the Doges Palace, Bridge of Sighs, St Marks Square.  Sr. Ursula was close and I thanked her for everything she taught me.

Last week I visited NGV AUSTRALIA’S TOP ARTS 2021 exhibition, an annual opportunity to admire what VCE Art students are creating. Last year, they were further challenged with 2020’s lockdowns due to COVID-19.  I am in awe of their teachers and collective imaginations under such constraints. Works are diverse, using drawing, painting, sculpture, installation and multimedia. Not only is this Top Arts an excellent representation of schools’ curriculum, it offers an educational resource for younger students and budding artists.

With such a diversity of works, I can only give a representation here.
Sarah Hare, Ocean  (Presbyterian Ladies’ College)
I’m a ‘water baby’ and happily immersed in this artwork, all those blues, feeling underwater. Made from squares of acrylic on paper, hole-punched, threaded to one complete work.
Bronte Green, Streets of your town  (Santa Maria College)
Painted in gouache on paper, I was delighted to see an artwork from my old school, Santa Maria College. Bronte depicts my neighbourhood and many Melbourne suburban streets.
Lara Atkinson, Untitled (Clair de Lune) (Korowa Anglican Girls’ School)
Lara’s digital animation was one of my favourites.  I was drawn to the sound of Clair de Lune before realising it was the soundtrack to the changing images. Untitled is Lara’s life story, trying to both explain and understand what it is like for a person with autism. I also noted, that Untitled stood alone in a boxed gallery space, highlighting the importance to approach and step closer.
Charlotte Grimes, Lament from the series The ineffable, (Damascus College)
The shallows and an ironing board! Charlotte’s photographic content drew an immediate response from me.  She writes that she was “influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, expressing how our worlds have recently been turned inside out. It also shows that our 2020 existence has been defined by our home lives and new-found connection to the natural landscapes around us.” As someone who has, for decades, walked Port Phillip Bay each morning  – add the domestic chores – this could have been a visual representation of my life during 2020 lockdowns.  I noted Salvador Dali is an inspiration to Charlotte. At her age, not only was I also exploring photography, particularly the works of those fabulous Time/Life photojournalists, but I repeatedly borrowed Dali’s book ‘Diary of a Genius’ from the library.  Charlotte’s work (inkjet print on glass) spoke to both the young and much older me.
Angelina Innocent, Unsubscribed  (RMIT Urban School)
Angelina’s message is potent, moreso in the shadows cast by her suspended doll, grimly twisted and tortured, shackled.  Using felt, ribbon, chain and acrylic on canvas, you can sense Angelina’s intellect and experimentation evolving. Congratulations, Angelina, on your gender expression.
            
Photos: Sarah Hare – Ocean ; Bronte Green – Streets of your town; Lara Atkinson – Untitled(Clair de Lune); Tahlia Reisacher’s Elephantus Submerged is reflected in Charlotte Grimes – The ineffable; Angelina Innocent – Unsubscribed. 

PEOPLE’S CHOICE  The Top Arts exhibition invites a People’s Choice Award. I didn’t really have to make a choice, because Phoebe Thompson’s Coexistence (St Margaret’s School) charmed me. The seeming simplicity of combining an object of nature, placed within a ceramic block; each piece stood alone, while mingling with the surrounding works. It is evident that Phoebe has an innate observation and connection with the environment.  So beautiful and serene. Thank you, Phoebe.
Alice Jakobus, Nostalgia & the future (Sacré Cœur)
Generally, I don’t feel kindly to work as “an homage” to great artists, however I found the overt wink to John Brack’s “Collins St, 5pm, 1955” delightful and meaningful. (graphite pencil, paper stumps, watercolour paper).
Greta Linehan. 1 in 5 Australian women over the age of 15 are victims of sexual assault (St Aloysius College)
A compelling title! Greta has intelligently created a work that expresses her degree of discomfort with this reality. She writes, “I achieved this by drawing raw, chaotic portraits of my loved ones adjacent to real victims from the media (Jill Meagher, Eurydice Dixon). The use of multi-media embellishment visually represents the trauma and injustice of such a ruthless crime”.  (Post it notes, ballpoint pen, ink, thread, copic marker, pins, gouache, gauze, bandage, staples and double-sided tape on foamex board.)
Arie Sawyer, People are cocoon weavers, whether they know it or not  (Alice Miller School)
This work greets you on entering the Top Arts exhibition. Using wool, plastic, plant matter, electrical cord, synthetic hair, hoop iron, Alice’s “person” represents its title, depicting individual metamorphosis. With David Bowie as her inspiration, I am sure he would have been delighted with Alice’s cocoon weaver.
Sophie Yang, Imagine how much more you could be (Yarra Valley Grammar)
I was first attracted to the vibrancy of Sophie’s (inkjet print on paper) art, the overt use of complementary colours. But, reading her purpose concerned me – more likely, the maternal me. This strong graphic and palette is a representation of the demands Sophie places on herself, her striving and ultimately, as she writes, ‘burnout’.
           
Photos: Phoebe Thompson – Coexistence; Alice Jakobus –  Nostalgia & the future; Greta Linehan – 1 in 5 Australian women over the age of 15 are victims of sexual assault; Arie Sawyer – People are cocoon weavers, whether they know it or not; detail from Sophie Yang – Imagine how much more you could be.

She-Oak and Sunlight: Australian Impressionism
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains.   (From My Country)

At school, we were taught Dorothea Mackellar’s “My Country”.  And, we learnt about the Australian Impressionists art movement. I recall practising the title of Arthur Streeton’s The purple noon’s transparent might, committing it to memory.

She-Oak and Sunlight is another major exhibition of more than 250 works, currently at NGV Australia. I love this period of art and its storytelling in depicting Dorothea Mackellar’s changing landscape. Featuring the best know Impressionists – Tom Roberts, Charles Condor, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton – along with other notable artists –  it is the colours and textures of Australia’s terrain that brings life and place to these works.

When painting en plein air, there’s so much enjoyment in sitting on the ground, midst the landscape, mixing the colours on my palette. In viewing the works of our Australian Impressionists, I wanted to “be there”, watching and learning, up close to their techniques in capturing our countryside, skies, gum trees and nature.
            
Photos: Tom Roberts’ narratives (detail).  A Break away!;  Bailed up; A Quiet day on Darebin, Creek;  Shearing the Rams.
              
Photos:  Textures and technique (detail).   Jane Sutherland – Obstruction, Box Hill; Arthur Streeton – The railway station, Redfern; Arthur Streeton – Sirius Cove; Tom Roberts’ bush brushstroke.

Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,

The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.  (From My Country)

Top Arts 2021 is on at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia until 11 July.
She-Oak and Sunlight is at the Ian Potter Centre; NGV Australia until 22 August.
https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/whats-on


Photo: Art tuition (at the Carterisville homestead).

© Photographs and text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2021

Take two: at the NGV Triennial 2020


Photo: Strolling past Tony Matelli’s bronze sculpture “Hera”

The Triennial isn’t an all-in-one visit. We went back to explore more and, on this occasion, began our adventure with the NGV’s “Follow the light” self-guided tour on Level Two.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!
Why leave the best to last? Dive right in, with the hypnotic Salon et Lumière.  Reminiscing on the theme of 17thC Paris’ Académie des Beaux-Arts, the NGV’s Salon Gallery – with over 150 paintings and sculptures – has transmogrified into an ambience of activity as shadowy people stroll across artworks, birds swoop through landscapes. It embodies all those adjectives that shout “mesmerising, captivating, riveting.”  You have to sit, linger, overwhelmed at the extent of work in creating Salon et Lumière.  And, the music is glorious, integral to this spellbinding exhibition. I can’t rave enough. You have to see it for yourselves.

The Indonesian collective’s LED screening of Tromarama could juxtapose its historic exhibition setting, but it doesn’t. This giant digital simulation of a moving, changing marine eco-environment, features a jellyfish species that has evolved in Indonesia, a significant scientific study regarding the impact of climate change on our planet.
            
Photos: Light moves around Salon et Lumière; Tromarama

It’s an obvious pun, but English artist, Stuart Haygarth’s Optical (tinted) is more than eye-catching. Made from over 4,500 optical prescription lenses, Haygarth’s contemporary ‘chandelier’ is itself a play on words.  Created from re-cycled objects – a reference on consumerism – this ball of light requires closer inspection to ‘see’ its real substance.

We had to go searching for Zaha Hadid’s light. It was in a corner and we walked past, circling the gallery a couple of times until we found it. This positioning made it difficult to photographically capture the impact. I would have liked to walk around it.

The (late) Zaha Hadid was the architect of my favourite contemporary gallery, MAXXI national museum of contemporary art and architecture, in Rome. It’s a compelling building, everywhere your eye is lead to what’s above or beyond.  A must on every visit to Rome.
            
Photos: Stuart Haygarth’s Optical (tinted); Zaha Hadid light in NGV, also the exterior and an interior pic of MAXXI, Rome. 

FABRIC FOLDS and TEXTILES feature throughout the Triennial.  Hera by Sculptor, Tony Matelli (USA) is a delicious bronze Greek Goddess, moreso because she has (hand-painted bronze) watermelons on her shoulders, and partly-eaten at her feet.  These fresh fruits leap out as ‘real’ in contrast to the greys of the sculpture and surrounding NGV garden exterior surfaces.

Hovering above the NGV’s 19th and 20thC collection is Danish artist Cecilie Bendixen’s Cloud Formations. Cecilie works with textiles, hand-making these beautiful, luminous and translucent clouds.

Pierre Mukeba was a child when his family fled the Democratic Republic of the Conga, later seeking asylum and making Adelaide home.  Mukeba’s Impartiality was another favourite on my second Triennial trip.  His vibrant work of four women, looking directly at the viewer is entrancing. Drawn with brush pen on unprimed cotton, merged with striking batik fabric, has a strength, especially the female in the middle.  I loved everything about this!

Richard Quinn’s Look 2, Ensemble is attention-grabbing as it stands alone, ‘showing off’ its pearly magnificence.  But, the lady, Joanne, who spotted it as we approached, had to share her exuberance, marvelling at every detail.  What a delight to engage with her appreciation.  British artist Quinn’s Look 2, Ensemble is a long way from those “Down at the Old Bull and Bush” pearly kings and queens I remember from theatre restaurant days in England!!
            
Photos:  Tony Matelli’s Hera; Cecilie Bendixen’s Cloud Formations; Pierre Mukeba’s Impartiality;  Joanne ‘Wows’ at Richard Quinn’s Look 2, Ensemble. 

AND A WHOLE LOT MORE!
I jumped straight ‘into the frying pan’ and the fun of American Jim Shaw’s lively, surrealist style Capitol Viscera Appliances mural. The symbolism is easily recognisable in Shaw’s large work – all that debris of consumerism on Capitol Hill.

In contrast, Turkish sculpture, Guido Casaretto’s, As far as I recall / I–II is solemn. It has a sense of aged, incarcerated. Deliberately working against contemporary digital formation, Casaretto created these busts of the same man viewed from slightly different angles, making firstly in clay before casting, than hand colouring with shades of charcoal to render reality to the figures.  Mounted on one wall space, standing alone, commanding its space, it gripped me.

A single voice, film and music sound work by Susan Philipsz (born Scotland, lives in Berlin) is visually pleasing, but it’s a work with a complex explanation that I didn’t understand.  While it writes about the deconstruction of the violin sounds, I couldn’t ‘deconstruct’ the inspiration and its interpretation.  That happens sometimes, so I just stood back and enjoyed the experience.

In my first blog on the NGV’s Triennial 2020, I wrote about Refik Anadol’s Quantum Memories, but as the Grand Entrance to the exhibition, it deserves an encore. It’s thrilling and exciting.  So, I snapped another photo as morning’s natural daylight washed across it.
            
Photos:  Holding onto the frying pan in Jim Shaw’s Capitol Viscera Appliances mural; Guido Casaretto’s, As far as I recall / I–II;  A single voice by Susan Philipsz; Refik Anadol’s Quantum Memories.

National Gallery of Victoria’s Triennial 2020 exhibition is on until 18 April, 2021. Entry is free, tickets on website NGV International: NGV Triennial & General Admission | National Gallery of Victoria

 Photo:  Shadows stroll through Salon et Lumière 

© Photographs and Text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2021

 

It’s a triumph: National Gallery of Victoria’s Triennial 2020.


Quantum Memories – Refik Anadol

A gift to the people of Melbourne, when we needed it most!  For four seasons – autumn, winter, spring and summer – 2020 has been without the tangible art experience, the ‘being there’. My last blog http://www.pamelareid.biz/home-is-where-the-art-is applauded what we could share in the arts and entertainment worlds, from my home and with friends internationally.  What I missed most during those long months was sitting in a concert hall, pre-performance, the orchestra tuning as audiences shuffle in their seats, and the ‘up close’  pleasure of gallery space.

At this time of writing, we still can’t attend indoor concerts, but the National Gallery of Victoria has exploded with the Triennial 2020, welcoming all ages, celebrating that ART IS FOR EVERYONE!

COLOUR AND MOVEMENT
On entering the NGV, grandiose colour and movement invites. It looms against the grey stone backdrop, ever-swirling. “Quantum Memories” by Refik Anadol (Turkey). While its purpose relates to the complexities of AI (artifial intelligence), it is the vast scope of colour, spilling out from the frame, that mesmerises.  In my professional entertainment industry world, this is ‘one helluva an opener’. The show hasn’t started and, already, people are seated, watching, photographing, anticipating.

Exquisite in blues, Australian artist, Dhambit Mununggurr’s “Can we all have a happy life” exhibits fifteen bark paintings and nine hollow poles (larrakiti).   The reason for this spirited colour differentiation from the usual ochres and earth tones is because Mununggurr is confined to a wheelchair – the result of an accident – unable to manage the physical tasks involved in making and applying the necessary pigments. She was given permission by her Aboriginal community of Yirrkala (Northeast Arnhem Land) to use acrylic paints for her blue palette in Yolŋu art.

Stepping up onto (Australian Designer) Danielle Brustman’s “Coloured In” carpeted stairs, you relax into your own sense of style, overlooking Leonard French’s cut glass ceiling and the NGV Great Hall.   I recall equally enjoying her (Finalist) Art Deco “Inner-Terior” at the Rigg Design Prize 2018.  http://www.pamelareid.biz/ngv-on-design

            
Photos: Quantum Memories – Refik Anadol; Can we all have a happy life  – Dhambit Mununggurr;  Coloured In – Danielle Brustman

A THING OF BEAUTY
It’s in the eye of the beholder, and there are many works at the Triennial to attract an individual’s senses.  “Venus”, that very goddess of love, glistens and scintillates. Sculptured in stainless steel by American artist, Jeff Koons, her much larger than life figure stands alone – not your usual representation of one of Roman and Greek Mythology’s best-known beauties.

A glorious garden of fabric covering surrounds the walls, enhancing the NGV’s 16th and 17th Gallery.  “Natural History 2020″ (David Allen Burns and Austin Young / Fallen Fruit) was inspired by the American artists’ research trip early last year to Melbourne’s Royal Botanic and other gardens.  More than an “immersive” experience, Natural History is a stroll through the gallery, with added colour, warmth and appreciation.

South Korean artist, Lee Ufan’s “Dialogue” is a work that calls you across the room. Its apparent simplicity is what attracts, alive in its own space.   If I was to pick a ‘personal favourite’ on my first visit to the Triennial – I haven’t seen it all – Dialogue would be the one.
            
Photos: Venus – Jeff Koons; Natural History 2020 – David Allen Burns and Austin Young / Fallen Fruit) ; Dialogue – Lee Ufan

FUN AND ILLUSION
The expression “Its all smoke and mirrors” originally pertained to stage magicians, conjurers who used actual smoke and mirrors to deceive the audience.  Nowadays, it can reference obscuring or deceiving the facts, but when it comes to art, I welcome the creator as a ‘trickster’.

Alicia Kwade’s “Welten Linie is such fun.  German born Alicia, really does weave illusions with mirrors, asking ‘which is the reality and which the reflection?’ It looks good, playful as you step in and around the steel-framed hexagonal structure. At a time when everyone uses mobile phones to capture the moment, finding where you are in the space and how to frame your own image is amusing, tentative as you step forward, unsure if you’re heading into another mirror.

When you walk in to view “Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a disposable world(South African artist, Porky Hefer) it looks like a playground for big and little kids. Colourful, oversized sea creatures are suspended from the ceiling and a giant octopus spreads across the floor space.  But, the message here is a serious one, envisaging mutated outcomes of environmental pollution, disposal of cigarette butts, plastics and other trash.

Anyone who has inspected, purchased or rented a contemporary apartment will recognise “Walls 4 Sale: near new and supersized”  (Zurich based Bosshard, Tavore, van der Ploeg, Vihervaara). It’s a giggle as you walk through the all-white interior, trying to reach light switches or ‘on tip toes’ to the kitchen sink – I’m a short person, I get it!  Balconies with over-sized airconditioning units and a cityscape “view” that just about swallows you. Nothing is what it appears to be in the advertising. I congratulate them on this.  Those around me where enjoying the experience.

“Biole, Carson, Dasha, Marisa,” are nine, small, hand-carved, wooden portraits of real people. Artist Tomaoki Suzuki was born in Japan, moved to London to study in 1998 and now resides there. These meticulous, figurative sculptures are carved in lime wood, a lengthy process that commences with Suzuki selecting his model, taking many photographs, videos, working over several months from both real life and these images.
            
Photos: Welten Linie – Alicia Kwade; Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a disposable world – Porky Hefer; Walls 4 Sale: near new and supersized – Bosshard, Tavore, van der Ploeg, Vihervaara; Biole, Carson, Dasha, Marisa – Tomaoki Suzuki 

LIGHT AND SHADE
“Botanical Pavillion” (Kengo Kuma, Japan, and Geoff Nees, Melbourne). What draws you into this pavilion, are the gentle shadows along the pathway, reflections of its intricate and cleverly interlocked wooden construction.  Architect Kengo Kuma and Artist Geoff Nees collaborated, working in a Japanese carpentry tradition, on this visually pleasing semi-circular structure. Using trees previously felled in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, the Pavillion has that sense of being amidst a natural environment, while you admire the craftsmanship.

There is some wonderful, bold and captivating photography exhibited in the Triennial. But, as these are usually framed behind glass, it is difficult for a visitor to photograph. I would love to take Ethiopian, Aïda Muluneh’s “Memory of Hope” series home with me, hang them on my walls and admire them every day.  Aïda uses culturally significant strong colours and linear patterns in her compositionally compelling images.

It’s difficult to capture the impact Dutch-American Artist, Lara Schnitger’s “House of Heroines” as it comprises a Grecian style frieze around the walls, with four large columns suspended from the ceiling, along the centre of the gallery space. House of Heroines has an obvious feminist theme, quilted and sequinned in two-tone fabric with Schnitger’s drawings and text. You have to read your way around this exhibit to fully appreciate.
            
Photos: Botanical Pavillion  – Kengo Kuma and Geoff Nees;  Memory of Hope – Aïda Muluneh; House of Heroines – Lara Schnitger

THE WATERWALL
The gallery’s waterwall is a constant, always photogenic and inviting to visitors. I recall the scale of public outrage when the NGV was being redeveloped by Italian architect, Mario Bellini (1999 – 2003). Two aspects could not be removed: the waterwall and Leonard French’s ceiling in the Great Hall. They remain popular with all ages – touch the water, lie on the carpet, look up at the ceiling.

The Waterwall also integrates with current exhibitions, whether looking from outside into the gallery, or from inside the gallery towards St Kilda Road.  Glenda Nicholls’ “Miwi Milloo” (Good spirit of the Murray River) splendidly complements the waterwall, her fishing net strewn above the gallery entrance. Glenda (a Waddi Waddi, Ngarrindjeri and Yorta Yorta artist – her cultural name is Jule Yarra Minj, ‘little river girl’) has hand-woven this delicate work, enhanced with hundreds of feather flowers. Miwi Milloo reinforces her cultural messages, ancestral techniques and knowledge.

What a treat! National Gallery of Victoria’s Triennial 2020.  I’m going back for more. Exhibition is on until 18 April, 2020. Entry is free, tickets on website.
NGV International: NGV Triennial & General Admission | National Gallery of Victoria


Photo: Children play at the waterwall. Glenda Nicholls’ “Miwi Milloo” fishing net.

© Photographs and Text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

home is where the art is


My place. Photo credit: Sanjeev Singh ‘Housebound – A Portrait Project in Isolation’

Staying at home.  Worldwide, where we’ve been for three seasons.  Here in Australia that’s Autumn, Winter and now, Spring.  Throughout, I have been recording these COVID-19 times, photographically, making art and appreciating the abundance of visual and performing arts made available from galleries, theatre, opera, ballet companies and museums globally. Locally, many talented friends have been creating online performances and literary events. At commencement, back in March 2020, I thought this project had an end date. Now, I don’t know. When I started to itemise my pictorial collections, it became a series of headlines, categories.

“Trees of life”
At the very beginning, there was intense anxiety, fear.  Around Europe, much loved countries – Italy, Spain, France – were ‘in lockdown’ (a now familiar phrase), with extraordinary and increasing numbers of people suffering and dying from the virus.

My first project then was to suggest to friends on social media that everyone ‘has a go’ at drawing trees or plants. I drew trees around my neighbourhood, taking photos on my morning walks, then sketching in different mediums, various textures.  Friends too would draw trees and plants, send them to me.  I looked forward to my afternoon sketching, and found real joy in drawing trees. I still do!
               
Images: First sketch in my backyard, Derwent colour pencils; ink sketching; gum tree in pastels; watercolour and ink; ink sketching; pastels on black paper (local walking track). 

SEASON ONE: AUTUMN
The best place to be in autumn is ‘my place’, Victoria, Australia.  The sometimes oppressive heat and wind that can hit in Summer has passed, along with our bushfires season.  Daylight, from beginning to end, is welcoming, colours are rich and outdoors beckons.  I’ve walked in the mornings since my late teens.  Daybreak is my favourite time of day.
               
Photos:  Morning walks around Middle Park and St Kilda beaches; Albert Park Lake; it’s autumn!
                    
Photos: Locals stroll the beach at the end of the day, as light turns golden, mauves, reds, oranges, greys and deep purple; that’s autumn!

There’s beauty in isolation.
Isolation can be a wonderous place. I’m content in seclusion when rambling around UK’s Lake District or strutting that cornucopia, Rome. But, when it becomes law-enforced for the purposes of your own health, protecting not only your community, but also a global population, its emphasis shifts hugely. “Isolation” (a.k.a. Iso) is the new vernacular, “social distancing” the common idiom.
               

“Easter – Home Sweet Staying Home”  (my second project).
I stayed in touch with friends around the world, aware of the varying restrictions, thankful that here in Melbourne I could still walk, walk, walk.  Easter is a family occasion, a vacation, often a ritual of returning to the same holiday destination year after year.  But, Easter 2020 meant everybody would be staying home. Wanting to connect with friends, I asked them to send photographs. Gallery below.
           
Photos: Ailsa – Sydney, Australia; Amy – Brooklyn, NY, USA; Jason, Angela, Alice and Cookie – Woodend, Vic. Australia; Bella & Byron, Melbourne,  Australia; Carl – Melbourne, Australia; Charlotte – Mornington Peninsula,  Australia
                
Photos: Clive & Michelle – Bintulu, Sarawak, Malaysia; Donna (Berkhamsted) & Oli (London), UK; Jane & Elizabeth – Edinburgh, UK; Emilie, Richard & Cooper – Estepona, Spain; Phil, Charlie & Fiona  – Hepburn, Vic. Australia; Roger & Jacquie – Church Point, NSW, Australia
                    
Photos:  J
oan, Amy & Allan – Rickmansworth, Herts. UK; John & Jen – Wilmslow, Cheshire, UK;  Julie – Melbourne, Australia; Laurel,John & Lottie – Melbourne, Australia; Natalie – Melbourne, Australia; Yves & Monica – Quebec, Canada; Joanna – New York, USA; 

                    
Photos: Natalie – Melbourne, Australia; Victoria & Carmen, Sevilla, Spain; 
Colin & Katrina – Cooroy, Qld. Australia;  Honor, Ripley & Mum, Miranda – Melbourne, Vic. Australia; Sue & Barry – Safety Beach, Australia; Peter – Mornington Peninsula, Vic. Australia

ANZAC DAY – 25 April 2020
The first time I haven’t marched for my Dad (Pte Norman Robert Reid VX34575, 9th Division Cavalry) since he passed away in 2001. I created an artwork for Norm – pastel portrait, collage of mixed media using copies of memorabilia my Nana had kept – and titled the work “My Dad, My Hero”. With telegrams from when Dad was wounded and later removed from the critically ill list, a Christmas card he’d sent home from Bethlehem, newspaper announcements of those wounded, missing, killed in action and family photographs, I painted intense colour and torn fragments to depict the chaos of war, the anxiety for those who love and wait at home.

Our little street held a dawn service. It was important and personal. I went out walking as daylight broke through the skies.  LEST WE FORGET.
                
Photos: Look up! Walking around Albert Park Lake, back along St Kilda beach.  “My Dad, My Hero”.

#blacklivesmatter
May 25th – Horror!  Again and again we watched vision of an American policeman pressing his knee into another man’s neck, literally squeezing the life out of George Floyd who cried out that he couldn’t breathe, for his Mother.  Other policemen stood around, doing nothing to stop blatant murder.  At home, we were helpless. This reality immobilised us all, this slaughter should change how the world thinks. People protested. I drew in coloured pencil on black paper, an artwork titled “I Can’t Breathe”.
            
Photographers unknown: Policemen in USA go down on one knee in solidarity and respect for George Floyd’s life;  (credit AP) Black Lives Matter  on a Washington Street; Protesters in Australia.   “I Can’t Breathe” pastel on black paper. 

 

SEASON TWO: WINTER
Winter has two faces here in Melbourne: either clear, blue skies with cold, crisp air or ….bleak!  I think I was born with old people’s bones as I feel every chill and wind, struggling to find that “warm and cosy.” From childhood to high school years, I suffered painful chilblains on my hands and feet. Back then, girls were not allowed to wear trousers to school. Stockings under a tunic never kept my legs warm.

Layers of clothing, that’s me all winter. I determined to add some degree of colour or attractiveness during these lockdown times, but it remained dull shades of black, grey, brown starting with tracksuit pants, sox, skivvy and jumper, scarves (they do add colour) and – ask any Australian – Ugg boots. Leaving the house adds puffer jacket, gloves, beanie plus mask – don’t forget earplugs to listen to the radio.  My day always starts in quality walking shoes, but there have been several times when I’ve left the house, unintentionally still wearing Ugg boots. Just too many layers to remember!
               
Photos, Morning beach walks: storm on its way; layers of blue; 2C degrees; fog over St Kilda; icy waters; Kerford Rd pier.
                         
Photos:
 Foggy around Albert Park Lake; paddling swans; those blues; Late afternoon; Rugged up; windy at dusk.

That Great Ocean Road
I’ve missed not being able to get to the coast, opening the windows to the sound of surf and smell of ocean air, strolling the coastal walk, soaking up the every-changing colours and light.  In early July – when restrictions had momentarily eased – we  travelled out of metropolitan Melbourne. “We” is my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Three precious days at Aireys Inlet, before returning to the city as our Premier announced the next ‘Stage 3 lockdown.’
               
Photos: Aireys Inlet sunrise coastal walk; towards Lorne; clouds roll over the Inlet; dusk walk along Painkalak Creek, back around the bird sanctuary.
                          
Photos: Family time at Aireys Inlet;  Split Point Lighthouse; “the pub with no beer” Aireys Pub closed during Lockdown; painting by the fireswide. 

Everybody Loves Good Neighbours
I’m grateful for my neighbourhood, particularly the traders in our little village. Food providor, Gum Tree, has everything in the way of yumminess; fresh fruit and veg, the best of international cheeses, an excellent charcuterie, and sweets. My “local hero” is Italian Restauranter, Donato at Tacco & Tosca.  With the restaurant closed, Donato is baking bread daily in his wood fired oven, as well as biscotti, and fresh pasta made to order, bringing a little bit of Italy to my place as he greets me  “Buongiorno”. His veg lasagne has become a favourite.  Coffee!  Mine from Jack the Geezer.

We celebrated “Christmas in July”, lighting up our houses to bring some joy to this challenging winter. Neighbours made mulled wine and shortbreads. These festive care packages were placed on our verandahs and we toasted our street, a row of small Victorian cottages.
      
Photos: Gum Tree; Buongiorno Donato; Happy coffee on the walking track: festive “cheers” Michael & Lindsay; with libraries closed, this new street library has been added to the neighbourhood; local laneway art. 

Art & Entertainment Online
Mid-winter I started two hour online life drawing with the-art-room.com.au. Preferring a live model situation, I was surprised how enjoyable it was on a Saturday morning.  All the models were good, individual. The Art Room had done specific photo sessions, poses were challenging.
      

I have been a little over-excited at the visual and performing arts online.  Fortunately, I’m not sedentary or I would never leave the computer, absorbing as much as possible.  From early on, I enjoyed weekly (virtual) matinees with a theatre-going friend. We prepare a snack platter, pour a wine, and simultaneously – from respective homes – watch outstanding theatre productions. Top of our list: National Theatre Live ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk and the Royal Shakespeare Company www.rsc.org.uk, but so many more including the Zurich and Glyndebourne Opera companies. I’ve watched innumerable talks and virtual tours from galleries and museums around the world: our National Gallery of Victoria www.ngv.vic.gov.au; the National Gallery, London www.nationalgallery.org.uk and Tate www.tate.org.uk are my ‘regulars’. It is an entertaining and educational opportunity to view one specific artwork or a particular artist.  There is a wealth of works on show when you visit, it’s impossible to give dedicated time.  As well, I have enjoyed many dance and song performances on social media feeds by local friends and international artists.

I confess, I’ve become a glutton for it all!
      
Photos: National Theatre Live “Small Island” (mesmerising); National Gallery, London “Mr & Mrs Andrews (entertaining); Drawing with NGV (fun); RSC “Two Gentlemen of Verona” (always excellent); National Gallery, London “collage inspired by Henri Rousseau”  (enjoyable and immersed); NGV Dora Maar, a favourite  ( informative).; Aust Ballet, beginners classes.

Mandatory Masks here in Melbourne, as we moved into Lockdown Stages 3 and 4.
               
Photos: 23 July, our first day of mandatory mask wearing;  masked-up builders, struck a ‘Staying Alive” pose for me; ‘selfie’ in a mask outside local restaurant, Donovans; 6pm, an eerie dusk walk on the eve of Lockdown Stage 4, Sunday August 2nd.

Cyclists and I appreciate the same waking hours. When going through my photographs, I realised how often I had photographed those Early Birds on bikes, in the past months.
      

 

SEASON THREE: SPRING
It’s mid-way through September. Spring burst forth seemingly overnight: earlier daylight, birds singing, cygnets and ducklings on the lake, coloured cottage gardens, and warming temperatures.

I had not intended this blog to be lengthy, but nor could I have known we would be at this stage of a ‘never ending story’ when COVID-19 first surfaced early 2020. Staying home – one day at a time, Autumn, Winter, Spring!
               
Photos: “Hello Spring” blue skies; Birds of Paradise; morning exercise; selfie with the cygnets; catching warm rays; afternoon paddling in the sandbars.


Photo credit: Sanjeev Singh ‘Housebound – A Portrait Project in Isolation’

© Photographs and text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2020
(Excluding photos sent by friends at Easter, and those by photographer Sanjeev Singh, with thanks.)